Atlanta-based Grammy-nominated rapper 21 Savage is in federal immigration custody as he is in the United States illegally, authorities have said.
The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) says the musician is a British national who is in the country “unlawfully” after legally moving to the country on a now-expired visa in 2005, and that he is also a “convicted felon”.
The rapper, whose given name is Sha Yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, was arrested early on Sunday during a targeted operation “with federal and local law enforcement partners in metro Atlanta”, ICE southern region spokesman Bryan Cox said.
Mr Cox said: “Mr Abraham-Joseph was taken into ICE custody as he is unlawfully present in the US and also a convicted felon.
“Mr Abraham-Joseph initially entered the US legally in July 2005, but subsequently failed to depart under the terms of his nonimmigrant visa and he became unlawfully present in the US when his visa expired in July 2006.
“In addition to being in violation of federal immigration law, Mr Abraham-Joseph was convicted on felony drug charges in October 2014 in Fulton County, Georgia.”
Mr Cox said the hip hop star is currently in ICE custody in Georgia and “has been placed into removal proceedings before the federal immigration courts.”
A federal immigration judge will determine future actions.
Dina LaPolt, the rapper’s lawyer, said they are “working diligently to get Mr Abraham-Joseph out of detention while we work with the authorities to clear up any misunderstandings”.
“Mr Abraham-Joseph is a role model to the young people in this country, especially in Atlanta, Georgia, and is actively working in the community – leading programmes to help underprivileged youths in financial literacy.”
Stars have shared their shock at 21 Savage’s arrest and detainment while singer Demi Lovato has deleted her Twitter account after sharing a meme that poked fun that the suggestion that 21 Savage is British.
Lovato received backlash for the post – a picture of a person writing with a quill in candlelight with the words “this how 21 Savage be writing his verses” – and she later wrote on Instagram that she “wasn’t laughing at anyone getting deported”.
“I know that’s not a joke… not have I EVER laughed at that. The meme I posted/was talking about was of him being writing with a feather pen,” she said.
US rapper Killer Mike tweeted: “My sincere hope is to see this young man who has made a way for himself allowed to stay and continue to prosper and grow his legacy.
My sincere hope is to see this young man who has made a way for himself allowed to stay and continue to prosper and grow his legacy. Sincere prayers for him and his family and team. @21savage Should be allowed to remain in this country. pic.twitter.com/8Wp5GJLKHf— Killer Mike (@KillerMike) February 3, 2019
“Sincere prayers for him and his family and team. @21savage Should be allowed to remain in this country.”
US rappers Lil Yachty and Meek Mill both tweeted similar messages calling for 21 Savage to be freed.
Free 21 🗡— Meek Mill (@MeekMill) February 4, 2019
US social media personality Karen Civil tweeted: “The 21Savage arrest is beyond sad, he has been doing such incredible things in the community and changing the stigma of people perceive rappers to think/be.”
The 21Savage arrest is beyond sad, he has been doing such incredible things in the community and changing the stigma of people perceive rappers to think/be.— Karen Civil (@KarenCivil) February 3, 2019
21 Savage is nominated for two Grammy Awards for this weekend’s ceremony, including record of the year for the chart-topping track Rockstar with fellow rapper Post Malone.
The 26-year-old released a new music video on Friday for his song A Lot featuring J Cole, from his new album I Am > I Was, which was released in December.
The record, his second studio album, reached 33 in the UK albums chart and debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200.
He has collaborated with the likes of Drake, Cardi B, Travis Scott and Childish Gambino, and was previously in a relationship with model and actress Amber Rose.